Tom and I are just beginning to explore this part of Pennsylvania where we are spending the summer. Within three hours of our location are over 100 national park sites. Wow! Think of all the stamps I can collect this summer. Of course, a lot of them are in Washington DC, so we will certainly be heading there for a weekend. But, as a first step, we visited Friendship Hill National Historic Site.
Before arriving here, we had never heard of Friendship Hill or of the person, Albert Gallatin, who lived there. Albert Gallatin was a young man from Switzerland who fell in love with the American frontier. He came to the United States in 1780 when he was 19. He bought 370 acres in Fayette County, Pennsylvania with the intention of farming the land. Gallatin built a modest home and called it Friendship Hill, intending to remain there with his new wife. But his wife, Sophia died just four months after their marriage.
Lacking a homelife, Gallatin threw his energies into politics. He lobbied for the National Road which was finally approved by Congress in 1806. In 1793 Gallatin married again, but his new wife, Hannah, did not like living on the frontier. Although Friendship Hill remained his “home,” Gallatin and his family spent most of their time in Washington DC or New York City. In 1832 Gallatin sold Friendship Hill.
Gallatin served as Secretary of the Treasury under two presidents from 1801-1814. He felt it was good for the Federal Government to assume some debt for works that would benefit the nation. Gallatin was instrumental in financing the Louisiana Purchase. He worked to build a stronger government with the power to levy taxes. Later in his life he would publish several books on American Indian languages and tribes. In 1842 he founded the American Ethnological Society.
Friendship Hill National Historic Site preserves the house that Gallatin built along with its expansion through the years. The house started out as a two story brick home. Then Gallatin added a frame extension next to it and a stone kitchen. Hoping to persuade Hannah to live in the house, he added a stone addition with large rooms for entertaining. The house doesn’t have much furniture, but there are a few period pieces.
Several nature trails dot the Friendship Hill property. We walked to the gazebo overlooking the Monongahela River. There is a trail that leads down to Sophia’s grave. A separate parking area leads to nine miles of trails on former farmland.
Tom and I enjoyed our visit to Friendship Hill National Historic Site. It was interesting to learn about Albert Gallatin and see the house he built. Friendship Hill is a reminder of the contribution that immigrants have made to our country over its history.